One-on-One with Rich Nathan on Immigration and Diversity at Columbus Vineyard

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“If you can bring people together in safe spaces where they get to know each other as people and not as issues, you can see a lot of change.”

Ed: Give me an example of when Christians in your community have done good things that were surprising or that undermined the perceptions unbelievers had about who Christians are and what they do.

Rich: One of the places that we’ve really stepped into is immigration. We set up immigration counseling services. We’re one of two immigration non-profits in central Ohio. There are only a few in the state of Ohio, but we’re one of them. We pay for the attorney, and we handle DACA cases through the immigration counseling services.

At a time when evangelicals are the least likely to support comprehensive immigration reform of any religious group, we’ve stepped in. As a result of that, we’ve been able to build relationships with the Muslim, Hispanic, and African communities here in Columbus.

We not only are doing direct legal services, but we’re also helping people get citizenship, so we do citizenship classes. We have a couple hundred people coming in for English as a second language. We have an apartment that we rent out in an apartment complex that is filled with immigrants, and we do after school tutoring there as well.

Many of the folks coming in to our immigration programs are coming from the Somali community, which is a really insular community. This is their first time stepping into a church building, and they’re encountering Christians. So, for the first time just this year, several Somalis have come to the Lord.

That’s been the fruit of about 15 years of work. Women are wearing hijabs and walking into our community center. We’re taking care of their kids in our after-school program; we have about 120 kids in the after-school program doing tutoring work, and many of the kids are Somali kids. …

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